The first day of Movement, Detroit’s annual electronic music festival, is always an exciting and curious event for me. Each year is full of familiar scenes and new surprises. Will the bathrooms be clean? Will the lines be long? Will the drinks be overpriced? Will the food be worth eating? And most importantly, which artists, if any, are going to totally rock the heart of Detroit. Fortunately this year, the music was solid.
After wading through the madness of the lines to grab our wristbands and get inside, we were immediately drawn to the Made in Detroit stage and the warm welcoming sounds of some soulful house music being spun by Detroit’s own Michael Geiger. I really love house music; it’s the perfect way to put someone in the mood for a day of dancing and festivities.
Next stop was around the corner to the main stage to see Metro Area. I’m surprised I’d never heard of these guys before. They played a DJ set that was right up my alley. It spanned old school electro, acid disco house, deep acid house, powerful vocal house, and straight up techno in its purest forms. It was great music but I felt some of it was lost on the crowd. Their set never really got into a solid groove for too long but how could I complain? More skillfully spun house music! Yes! I was digging the fest so far.
It was time for a walk around Heart Plaza to take in the entire festival landscape. I noticed Moog is a sponsor this year and they have a demo area just to the right of the underground stage where you can play with their instruments. Definitely have to check that out! After meeting up with friends, we passed by the Beatport stage and came upon a most beautiful sight: a Slows Bar B Q food stand! I’ve eaten the corndogs at past Movement festivals (I don’t recommend it). Slows is a welcome addition not least because it’s one of the most beloved restaurants in Detroit. There is also Middle Eastern food and Hoegaarden beer being offered this year. Not too shabby.
Back at the Made in Detroit stage, Aril Brikha was tearing it up with an edgy live set. I loved it. Perhaps a little clean sounding for a Detroiter’s ear and bordering along the lines of trance music (I’m not really a fan of trance), Brikha’s grooving rhythms and solid, danceable baselines got the crowd into it. Nice. While we danced under the trees, it began to rain. The moment rain starts to fall is usually the point when things get interesting.
We headed off to the riverfront to see Dam-Funk & Master Blazter and I didn’t know what to expect. We approached with caution as the Red Bull stage often showcases some of the more overrated and underwhelming acts in recent memory; I’ve also seen some of my favorite acts on this stage. Fortunately, this was a case of the latter. As we pushed into the crowd to avoid a now steady rain, I was enveloped in a soulful and heartfelt world of spacey funk jazz, electro, house music, rock rhythms, and R&B vocals that got me very excited. Wherever these guys came from, I thought, they spoke the same musical language of Detroit musicians. They were the best group I saw all day. As a music producer, this is the reason I come to Movement every year. To be inspired by the unexpected.
On our way back from the riverfront we caught a few moments of Tortured Soul’s live deep house set. It was a bit sleepy but sounded great. I loved their very appropriate song about the rain falling down. But my crew was headed for a dry refuge in the underground stage and we witnessed Detroit’s own Kero completely killing it! I’ve never really enjoyed Kero’s music as much as I did this Drum N Bass / Booty live set. It was glitched the hell out and put me in a great mood. Comparisons to Autechre and Squarepusher come to mind but it was very easy to dance to. He earned his spot at this year’s festival the hard way. Years of relentlessly honing his skills in the Detroit electronic music underground have paid off for him and he now sounds quite comfortable in his own musical skin. Hat’s off to you my friend. You rocked it!
After Kero, we caught the end of Kerri Chandler’s set at the main stage. I’ve seen this guy spin dozens of times and he never disappoints. This was no exception. Mr. Chandler threw the fuck down for the last 15 minutes of his set and Felix da Housecat just ran with that energy. Felix started off with some slamming electro house that drove the crowd wild. For a moment I forgot I was in my own city until I looked up from the main stage bowl and saw the familiar buildings on Jefferson overhead. Soon Felix da Housecat’s tracks got a little too loud for my taste and the distorted sounds coming from overloaded speakers told me it was time to move on.
We caught some of the Venetian Snares DJ set which was a bit of a disappointment for its lack of cohesiveness. We were really excited to see this guy but, hey, that’s how the festival goes. It’s full of surprises both good and bad.
The night ended fittingly with a very affordable and insanely delicious stop at the Slows Bar B Q tent while we mashed on some pulled pork sliders and listened to a Detroit staple and Movement festival regular, Richie Hawtin. I don’t expect much out of Richie these days as far as creative surprises. He usually just delivers a solid set of exactly what you’d expect to hear from him. If you’ve heard him once, you know what you’re in for. He’s a bit like Kevin Saunderson in that way: steady, reliable, comfortable.
Despite the long lines, pouring rain, nasty porta-johns, and a severe lack of garbage cans throughout the venue, it was one of the better kickoffs to Movement in recent memory.
Here are a few tips for having a great time at the festival, rain or shine…
- Get there early: any time before 3 or 4pm will usually guarantee you don’t have to wait too long in lines. Being late an hour or two can mean the difference between waiting 20 minutes and waiting 2 hours.
- Buy your tickets online if you want to save time in line. I heard stories of the line to buy tickets stretching from the Renaissance Center to Cobo hall. That’s over a quarter mile long at the 5-6pm peak time! Yikes!
- Even if you get there early, allow yourself at least half an hour to park and get into the festival.
- Girls, bring toilet paper in your purses. I heard they ran out on the first day.
- Bring a change of clothes and an umbrella or poncho and keep them in your vehicle. Also DON’T WEAR FLIP FLOPS. Bring an extra pair of shoes and socks instead. You’ll thank me when you step into an over-flowing porta-john toward the end of the night.
- Pace yourself. Tonight will be the biggest night for after-parties. There are a lot of them and they go ’til the morning light. If you push yourself too hard too soon, you won’t be able to hang and you’ll miss the best part of the fest!
Enjoy and we’ll see you at the festival today.